Indifferent and Content
CoC chats with Matti Karki from Dismember
by: Paul Schwarz
Fans had to wait five long years for Dismember's sixth album, _Where Ironcrosses Grow_ (released in March). But as we all know, metal fans are notoriously good at keeping the home-fires burning, even against the odds: the Swedes' performance at last year's Wacken proved beyond a doubt that Dismember kept a good few hearths warm, despite erratic touring schedules and a complete lack of new releases.

As an original, old school Swedish death metal band -- who, like Entombed, blossomed between 1990 and 1991, and were heavily influenced by Autopsy and Repulsion, among a host of other usual suspects like Slayer -- Dismember command a lot of respect in the metal underground. Today, they stand primarily on their reputation. Albums of the standard of _WIG_ of course help their cause, but it would take a lot, at this point, for Dismember's fanbase to wholeheartedly abandon them, after having effectively kept the band alive throughout years of business-related difficulties.

Of course, as I commented last time Dismember were interviewed in these pages, fans like myself are sometimes frustrated by Dismember's relative lack of popularity; but damn fine bands don't always receive the rewards they deserve, and in the end, perhaps it -is- enough that Dismember can continue to play and record without sacrificing more of their time and resources than they happily can. After all, that's more than many bands can manage. So, without further ado, here is an interview I conducted with Matti Karki shortly before the release of _WIG_, presented in its entirety, with edits only for clarity.

CoC: One of the things that I think is interesting about Dismember in this day and age, as it were, is that from the -inside- Dismember is very much something you do in your spare time...

Matti Karki: Yes.

CoC: Rather than something you're trying to make a career of -- which may have been somewhat true in the early Nineties, I imagine.

MK: Yeah.

CoC: But you compare that to the status of Dismember from the outside -- take your performance at Wacken this year. You're almost a legendary band <Matti quietly exhales a muted laugh> with a trademark sound -- even if the wanky music journalist in us all can, you know, dissect the band in terms of other influences.

MK: <chuckles>

CoC: You have a sound where people go: -that's- the Dismember sound.

MK: Yeah.

CoC: Firstly, how do you find that contrast between the inside and the outside of the band? The contrast between what a Dismember fan would say to you, and how it -is-, being in Dismember?

MK: I don't know, because we have been doing this for a long time now -- and it's grown to be a very natural part of our lives. Even if we are not able to do it full-time, it's still a big part -- and we're gonna do this as long as there is interest from the outside. I don't really know how I should make the comparison from the inside and the outside.

CoC: It's difficult, isn't it?

MK: Yeah. I mean, as we see it, we are just Dismember -- and during the latest years, with the last releases of the albums and the live shows that we've done, somehow there has grown like a reputation of, "Dismember, old-school veterans, they're not giving up". So... it's kind of fun, but I don't know if we see it that way. We're just... we're just Dismember.

CoC: _Where Ironcrosses Grow_ I think very much reflects that in the same way _Hate Campaign_ did, to a great extent. What's become clear to me, retrospectively, since _Death Metal_, is that -- once you were more relaxed with being -just- Dismember -- your influences started to come out more clearly, or more directly.

MK: Yeah.

CoC: The Autopsy and Iron Maiden influences are very easy to hear on _WIG_.

MK: Yes.

CoC: So do you think there's any sense where you're not being particularly adventurous with the albums, because you know who you are as a band?

MK: We have a very clear picture of what we wanna do and much of the stuff -- problems with the record label and stuff like that, have gone away. So we actually had -time- to write this album in all peace and quiet, had a really relaxed recording session, and just... you know, we felt that we needed to do a strong record and we wanted to look back on the old stuff, and since the market is pretty free -- you know, there's not many bands that play this way -- we felt free. We felt like: now we can go all the way, back to the roots -- and perhaps with the new influences and the new, fresh material -- and arrange and organise the stuff the way -we- want it, since -there is nobody else doing this-.

CoC: The -sound- of the record -is- more like _Indecent and Obscene_ or _Like an Everflowing Stream_.

MK: Yeah.

CoC: It's more -crusty- around the edges, in a really nice way. Did you intentionally make an album for Dismember fans this time around, more than with any other album?

MK: No, actually we just... When we started recording the album we were discussing what we should do, what we wanted to accomplish. First of all we felt that we were kinda pushed into doing a real -strong- album because of the long absence of the band. And since -now- we feel really comfortable with our status among many people as death metal veterans, and expect us to do old stuff -- not that it's any pressure, 'cause we really want to do that -- it all felt natural: to go back to the old albums and pick out the best things of every album. So soundwise we tried to get closer to _Like an Everflowing Stream_. Influence-wise, the riffs and stuff just went back to the roots. But we still tried to make fresh and interesting music.

CoC: It's been five years since the last Dismember album was released -- though _Where Ironcrosses Grow_ was recorded a year ago, four years after _Hate Campaign_. The line-up who recorded _WIG_ was yourself, Fred [Estby, drums], David [Blomqvist, guitars] and Richard [Cabeza] [the core "classic" line-up -- Paul]. Richard only recorded the bass on "Where Angels Fear to Tread" and "Children of the Cross" -- though he's featured in the band photo -- and David played session on the rest of the album. Now you've got Martin Persson as a second guitarist. You had the guy from Necrophobic doing bass at your Wacken performance last year. Basically, after you finished _Hate Campaign_ and left Nuclear Blast, what happened with Richard and what happened with Magnus [Sahlgren, second guitarist for _HC_]?

MK: Well, Richard got married. He met a girl from the States and after a while she got pregnant and they were planning to let the baby be born here in Sweden. But during the recording of the album David got the answer from Swedish immigration: no. So he had to go to the States -- and that was in the middle of the recording, so he only had time to do two tracks. Since we really needed the album done because we had booked the studio and everything, we just made the decision that David would have to do the rest of the bass so we could get the album done and return to other things like booking shows and planning for the future. Magnus just drifted away after our long period of inactivity. He drifted away, and when we started rehearsing the new songs for the album and went into the studio, he didn't even show up.

CoC: I remember you telling me this when we talked at Wacken. He didn't even quit, you had to call him up and tell him not to bother coming next time.

MK: Yes. We asked him to leave. We said: this is not going to work, you're showing no interest at all, so it's better if you quit -- and he agreed. So no hard feelings: we just needed to know that he's not going to be in the band -- and so we needed to find somebody else. Luckily, Martin actually phoned us up after hearing rumours that we were searching for a new guitarist. So he called us up and asked if there was a chance to try out, and he was the second guitarist we tried out and he fitted perfectly.

CoC: That's very lucky.

MK: Yeah. And when you don't call the guy, he calls you. It's pretty convenient.

CoC: Am I right in thinking that if the fan interest from the hardcore of Dismember fans -hadn't- maintained over the last five years, the band probably wouldn't still be around?

MK: It's a big possibility that after all this trouble we had with -everything- -- record labels and fucked-up tours and everything -- the chance would have been -very- big that we would just have split up. But 'cause we've been doing gigs here and there, we've always seen that there's still an -interest-. So that kept us going, you know, and hoping, "OK, let's do the next album and see what happens." Especially after we did Wacken: the support we had at that show was -amazing-.

CoC: It was great. It was almost like a Dismember convention -- for half an hour.

MK: <laughs> Yeah, and the people who enjoyed the music were not just old, hardcore Dismember fanatics. I mean, there were a lot of young people who were not there from the beginning, and still seemed to enjoy the music, so it was very fun to see.

CoC: Yeah. It still has the power to kind of -convert- people on its own back, the music?

MK: Yeah.

CoC: How did you track down Dan Seagrave to do the cover art for _WIG_? Is he still drawing album covers?

MK: Well, we were thinking about who we should get to do this cover -- 'cause the guy who did the cover for _HC_ didn't actually do that good a job.

CoC: I would agree with that.

MK: So we kind of felt we wanted to use someone else. OK, so who else? Once we'd remembered Dan Seagrave we tried to think of album covers he'd done lately. We couldn't think of any, so we thought we'd get in touch with him. I can't remember who sent the e-mail, but we just mailed him and asked if he was interested. He was interested, so we sent him the basic ideas and some... very few guidelines. He asked for the songtitles and just made an album cover.

CoC: It's nice that he can still do the death metal thing.

MK: Actually, I think he can because during the years when he did all the album covers for all the bands he developed a certain style. He began -- if you look at Carnage [1990's _Dark Recollections_ -- Paul] and both Entombed ones [1990's _Left Hand Path_ and 1991's _Clandestine_ -- Paul] and Dismember [1991's _Like an Everflowing Stream_] -- with this organic feel, with a lot of things from nature: water, trees.

CoC: Then there's a sort of techno-organic aspect that creeps into it.

MK: Yeah. During the years he made all these albums and developed a different style with more futuristic machines involved and stuff like that.

CoC: The Suffocation album -- _Effigy of the Forgotten_ -- and stuff like that.

MK: Yeah. But somehow he managed to go -back- to the early stuff, but with his -new- style of making his drawings.

CoC: So where do Dismember go from _WIG_? Have you got tours planned?

MK: Well, not actual -tours-. We have a lot of shows booked and we're gonna fly across Europe doing shows here and there every other week. So we have a lot of shows booked and we're gonna promote the album -this- way. We'll have to see what happens with the album, how the sales go, the fan reaction and -perhaps-, at the end of this year, if there is enough -interest-, we'll try to make a tour; but otherwise we just keep on, you know, flying down to Greece, doing a couple of shows, flying back home; a week later we go to Italy; and on like that. We're gonna jump around Europe all spring and summer. And hopefully we'll get these huge summer-festival offerings later on!

CoC: When I spoke to you at Wacken last summer you said, about _WIG_, that if everything went right the album would be out in November, and if everything went wrong it would be out in February. It comes out in March. How do you feel about that?

MK: Like I said to you previously, we were hoping that the album would come out at the end of last year, but I think much of the stuff with Hammerheart turning into Karmageddon Media also had an impact on the release date -- and in the end we just stopped bitching about it, you know? OK, -March-: as long as it doesn't go further than -March-, then it's OK. So I guess it gave the guys a lot of time to do promotional work. I've never done this amount of interviews for a single album in my whole career. I've been sitting here for four days now, doing interviews all day.

CoC: So there are even more interviews than there were in 1992, when death metal was big?

MK: Yes.

CoC: It must be a nice contrast to Nuclear Blast's very tailing-off attitude to the band. They didn't even promote _Death Metal_ well enough, let alone _Hate Campaign_, which had these little eighth-page ads that you occasionally saw in magazines!

MK: <laughs> Yeah, it's like, "Look! We have a mid-price CD!"

CoC: <laughs> Exactly. "...the new Dismember album."

MK: <laughs>

CoC: It must be such a different experience being with Karmageddon: you're probably one of their biggest bands.

MK: Yes.

CoC: You'll probably have more of a chance of getting _WIG_ in the album of year polls, having it released this year: a lot of press -- and I'm not sure, but I think especially in central Europe -- tend to miss releases that come out in November and December, unless they get them right on time and all that sort of stuff. I think Dismember have the potential to get really quite high marks in the magazines who really like Hypocrisy and quite a lot of the other melodic Swedish bands, who are very popular.

MK: One thing I heard -- I think it was the German Metal Hammer -- they have this Soundcheck part, and I think we got on fourth place, and apparently no death metal band has been -so- high on this Soundcheck thing for -years-. So yeah, there's a huge interest in the band at the moment and the album seems to get good reviews and people are generally happy with it. So yeah: let's hope that 2004 will be a good year for us.

CoC: As you were saying: you're taking it slow and steady. It's not like: let's organise the huge tour and -do it-. It's more like: let's test the waters, see how it goes, and we'll work up from there.

MK: Mmhm.

CoC: How much time, month by month, do you guys find you have -for- Dismember -- or do you have to devote -to- Dismember?

MK: Well actually not that much. Since all the live shows we have done have kept the band quite tight and rehearsed, we only had to rehearse the new songs for upcoming gigs, and actually we don't have that much, you know, "band time", except when we go and play. But otherwise, Fred is doing a lot of work, he's taking care of all the booking nowadays. I usually do all the interviews, and the other guys were busy doing other stuff, so I said, "OK, I'll do -everything-. I'll take this week and just sit and talk to all the people." So I mean usually, when nothing is happening, there's actually very little Dismember time, except for the usual things: I still write lyrics all the time, to have like a small "back-catalogue" to go back to when there's actually a need to do new lyrics.

CoC: So you don't have to stress.

MK: Yeah, and the other guys are just, you know, sitting at home doing riffs and just building up material until it's time to do the next thing.

CoC: So it's a very steady process. How much do you get -- not asking figures, but as far as your life goes, is Dismember the occasional cheque that's nice to get, or is it something where you think: well, in three months I'll have so much money from Dismember, so I can buy a stereo or something?

MK: It's the first option. Of course we have to think about the economic situation, 'cause everybody has jobs and when we go and play we need -at least- to have that economic guarantee: if we have to take time off work, we need to get that money that we lose from not working. So we have to take that into consideration all the time, but otherwise Dismember -- well, it's not a hobby, it's still our lifestyle, it's been there forever, you know. But we don't have the time to devote to Dismember 100%. We still have families and stuff to take care of.

CoC: Have Dismember ever been at a level where you could have quit your jobs?

MK: No.

CoC: Practice-time permitting, have you considered putting any more old songs that haven't been played in years back into the set? [Dismember aired some songs at Wacken which until recently had not been aired in years -- Paul]

MK: Yes, actually. For the upcoming gigs we have rehearsed a catalogue of about 30 to 35 songs. So we have songs to choose from. If we do a show and notice this song doesn't cut it live, we'll change it for -this- one so that we can try out more, and keep the set varied. So yes, there are a lot of songs popping up from the old records.

CoC: Any songs in particular that you'd like to mention, that haven't been aired recently?

MK: "Life, Another Shape of Sorrow", for example.

CoC: A cool song from _Massive Killing Capacity_, a very under-noticed album, in some ways.

MK: Yeah, it got kinda caught up in everything else and though it got some attention, we do have the two camps: either you like it or you hate it.

CoC: Absolutely, but it's definitely one of the ones that's also disappeared into the Dismember backcatalogue more than the others. Any old songs that you -won't- be playing, for sure -- ones that you looked at and just said, "no way"?

MK: <laughs> A lot from _Indecent and Obscene_. Those songs were so messy, with so many riffs and so many breaks and everything. They're really complicated to play.

CoC: Yeah, I love 'em. <laughs>

MK: <laughs> So they kind of faded from our memories so there's a lot of songs from that album we won't play. We are gonna do "Pieces", though.

CoC: Can I make one recommendation which I'll make a bet with you on?

MK: OK... <small chuckle>

CoC: I'll bet that if you play a, possibly rearranged version of "Skinfather": with that big massive riff in the middle you'll get a big shout from the crowd. I'll bet you a crowd will go nuts for that <dearn>... <dearn>... <dearn>...

MK: <laughs> Actually it -is- on the setlist. I think that song is going to be one of the ones we play at almost every show.

CoC: Good choice. What about your choice of studio for _Where Ironcrosses Grow_? You recorded _Hate Campaign_ at Das Boot with Fred as producer and _Death Metal_, the last album you recorded at Sunlight, was also produced and engineered primarily by Fred. How come you've moved to SAMI? What's happened to Das Boot -- or is there a reason you decided not to use it?

MK: It was because, first of all, Das Boot was very overbooked and they were going through a -building- phase when it was time for us to record. The whole studio was like a construction site and you don't get the peace of mind to do a good album in that environment. So that's why we decided -not- to use Das Boot. Sunlight is not an option anymore. It's history. We'd rather take something else.

CoC: Yeah, it's funny: black metal bands are recording there now.

MK: It was Fred who knew about the SAMI studio and I think the first idea was just to record a kind of demo thing there, but then when we actually started the recording process it just kept on going and while we recorded we booked the studio further. We did it in bits and pieces. Doing all the drums pretty fast, then doing guitars for two days, having a little break, then going back to do some more songs.

CoC: How many studio days was it in total? Maybe a month's worth?

MK: Yeah, a month. About a month.

CoC: Between December of 2002 and March of 2003.

MK: Yeah. The studio turned out to be really nice and there were not many people -- because if you're at Sunlight, there's always different people coming and going all the time. The same at Das Boot. Since none of the other metal guys knew about this studio, we had all the peace and quiet. It's in the middle of Stockholm, it's really central. It's just in the basement of a building. It was a very painless recording -- except we had some tape troubles. The storage media was acting up all the time and then we got this error code on the display. So we looked up the error code and it said: remove tape as soon as possible, make copies, it's going... <laughs>

CoC:'s going to blow! <laughs>

MK: Yeah. <laughs> So we were like, "Oh NO!". But luckily we made back-up copies of that real fast so everything turned out okay. If that had happened we would have had to start all over again.

CoC: How did you -find- SAMI studios?

MK: Through Fred. He was working at Das Boot, and he got hooked up to a place in inner Stockholm, like a small gig place. They have everything from jazz to rock 'n' roll and stuff like that -- and he did the sound for the live shows. Now, this place is owned by the SAMI organisation. It's a Swedish artists and musicians organisation. So it's for people who don't actually play in bands, but they are more like studio musicians.

CoC: They're like session musicians?

MK: They appear on albums from big -pop- musicians from Sweden. It's almost like a -union-. It's a really big organisation and the studio we used is actually in the basement of their huge office building.

CoC: That's the SAMI organisation building?

MK: Yeah.

CoC: What do the letters stand for?

MK: Svenske Artisters og Musikers Interesseorganisation.

CoC: Swedish Artists' Musical Interest Organisation?

MK: Yeah. They have one big and one small studio. So we jumped between those studios and, you know, first of all, as I said, it was gonna be more demo stuff, to try out the studio. But by the time we started recording we just changed everything 'cause it seemed to go so well so we made our whole album instead.

CoC: So technically Dismember is being funded partly by the Swedish government? Would that be right?

MK: Yes. <laughs>

CoC: It's good to see Sweden's supporting its good music. One last question: were you ever tempted to go back to Sunlight, and have a credit from Skogsberg on the album, -just- for the old fans that it would pull in?

MK: <laughs> No. That was never actual. We never thought about that.

CoC: It probably wouldn't be worth the transaction anyway, 'cause the cost of getting him probably wouldn't account for the extra album sales.

MK: Yeah, I mean... <sighs> As far as it concerns us, Sunlight is history. We noticed when we changed studios for _Hate Campaign_, that the sound follows us and it's not studio based. We have the guitar sound that we have and it comes through in a different studio. That was a big relief, and it gave us more freedom to look for better deals and different environments to record in.

(article submitted 6/8/2004)

8/12/2000 P Schwarz Dismember: Dissecting a Decade of Dismemberment
9/2/1995 A Bromley Dismember: Growing To Become the 'Perfect' Metal Band
4/13/2008 J Smit 8.5 Dismember - Dismember
3/26/2006 T DePalma 7 Dismember - The God That Never Was
3/14/2004 P Schwarz 8 Dismember - Where Ironcrosses Grow
3/5/2000 A Bromley 9.5 Dismember - Hate Campaign
9/14/1997 P Schwarz 9 Dismember - Death Metal
9/2/1995 G Filicetti 8 Dismember - Massive Killing Capacity
8/12/2000 P Schwarz Dismember / Akercocke / Infestation / Regorge Scotland Skinned Alive
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